Mary Elizabeth Porter met her future husband when she was only twelve years old, but she said she doesn’t remember it the way he did. Wayman Porter was seven years older than Mary and worked with a crew on the road by her house. “He saw me playing in the road, but I didn’t remember it,” Mary stated. Porter left soon after when the United States Army drafted him for World War II. Porter was overseas for three and a half years without a furlough. Mary said, “While he was gone, I grew up.” Here is their story.
Mary was born and raised in Beaver Dam, KY, with two older brothers and a younger sister. She and her siblings spent most of their time working on the farm when they weren’t outside playing with neighborhood children. Her father also worked in the coal mine when she was growing up.
Wayman Porter was the second youngest of four brothers and two sisters. After being drafted, Porter left in May of 1942 for basic training in Camp Forest, TN, before heading to Fort Dix, NJ, for Advanced Individual Training or AIT. Porter spent 38 months in the European Theater during World War II. While in Africa, he got sick and spent 21 days in the hospital with malaria. After returning to combat, a large gun went off close to his head in 1944, permanently damaging his hearing.
When he returned from the war, Porter reached out to the sister of Mary’s boyfriend, asking to have Mary meet him at a restaurant. She revealed, “I went down there to meet him, and we started caring for one another and were married right after that in 1947.” Mary disclosed they didn’t date long before they decided to marry. Mary remembered that her husband was a lineman for the Army and was in charge of keeping communications open. She said he didn’t talk much about his time in the military once he was home. He even donated all his pictures and items to Ohio County Historical Society to be displayed in the Veterans Museum. Mary recalled that two of Porter’s brothers were also in the military during WWII.
After getting out of the service, Porter opened a cab company but looked for better opportunities. Then the Porter family moved to Hammond, Indiana, in 1949 when he had a chance to work as a Union Construction Carpenter with Local 599. Mary worked seasonal jobs throughout their marriage but mostly stayed home to raise their children. The couple was married for two years before having their first child together. Their son James was born in 1949, and their daughter Lu Ann was born in 1955.
The family loved to travel, but Mary wasn’t a fan of flying, so they traveled the country in a motorhome. She happily exclaimed how over the years, she and Porter owned five different motor homes and were able to visit every state, excluding Hawaii and Alaska. Her husband even built the first camper they used to travel the country. Some of Mary’s favorite destinations they visited were the World’s Fair in Washington and seeing Mexico and Canada. Porter also took lessons to become a pilot and purchased two airplanes. Mary explained that Porter had a challenging childhood after losing his father when he was 11 years old. However, he was able to buy luxury items and take the family on vacations and never spent a dime in interest while doing it. When asked what the secret to his success was, she proudly stated, “He knew how to do things. He was born poor, and they knew how to take care of things.” She went on to say, “He had it hard all his life but then ended up getting everything he wanted with two airplanes, boats, and every time he built a new house, he would buy a new car. He was a go-getter.” Porter retired from carpentry in 1985. Over the years, he built the family four brand new homes. Eventually, he would use his skills to add a garage to two of their houses.
The Porters were married 62 years. Porter managed to avoid hospitals until he was in his 70’s when he had open-heart surgery. He spent the last ten years of his life on dialysis, receiving treatments three times a week. Unfortunately, Wayman Porter passed away on October 25, 2009, at the age of 89. It was 64 years to the day after his honorable discharge from the Army.
Mary has been with Veterans Care Coordination since 2014. Her caregiver Lynn has become like a member of the family. Mary noted, “She’s trustworthy and dependable and just couldn’t be no better.” Mary had fallen a couple of times, breaking her leg and then her arm, and that was when her daughter knew she needed to get her some help. Mary stated, “That was when my daughter found out about Veterans Care Coordination and got me help.” She went on to say, “I’m 94, but I’m about good as I ever was. Never had a headache in my life, and I’ve hit the floor many times,” Mary stated with a laugh. Mary added, “I can’t do a lot because I don’t have any strength, but I don’t hurt anywhere.” When asked what her secret was, Mary responded with a giggle saying, “If I told you, I would have to kill ya, but I don’t even know. Just a good clean life believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. He has helped me through all my life, and we just had a good life.” Continuing, Mary said, “And He’s given me those precious children, just precious, and they couldn’t do enough for me. It couldn’t be any better.”
Veterans Care Coordination is proud to recognize Wayman Porter for his service to our country and proud to acknowledge Mary Porter for her support and sacrifice to our country. We are privileged to have the opportunity to share the stories of our nation’s heroes.